The Malik Report
by George Malik on 01/12/12 at 08:26 AM ET
As the Detroit Red Wings prepare to face off against the Phoenix Coyotes tonight (7:30 PM EST, FSD/FS Arizona/WXYT), if you are facing a cheese-based emergency or find your supervisor looking over your shoulder at work, I can summarize the challenges facing the Wings in a few sentences: the Coyotes always play the Red Wings hard, especially given that they’ve been bounced out of the playoffs in two successive seasons by Detroit, and the Wings hope to find that Pavel Datsyuk (groin) can play tonight as they attempt to keep their lengthy home-ice winning streak going while steadying their slightly listing ship after struggling to keep pucks out of their own net during a difficult four-game road trip and an ugly 5-1 loss to the Islanders.
It is also highly likely that Jimmy Howard, Nicklas Lidstrom and/or Pavel Datsyuk may spend their morning skate media availabilities speaking about heading to Ottawa for the All-Star Game (which would mean no break for three players whose team will be playing 8 times over the next 14 days).
Oh, and if you’re going to the game, be careful out there on the roads, because it’s going to rain today and then turn to snow this evening, to the tune of somewhere between 2-to-5 inches, depending on your location.
Now I’d appreciate it if you keep reading, but if the cheese has gone off, go check the cheese.
Anyway, the Coyotes head into tonight’s game almost as desperate to make up ground in the playoff race: they sit in 11th place in the Western Conference, but are only six points behind the fifth-place Wings (who need to make up ground on the Blackhawks and Blues, who sit two points ahead of Detroit’s 53) and sit all of ten points behind the first-place Canucks.
The Coyotes lost their last game to the Rangers by a 3-2 shootout tally, and have lost three of their past four games and six of their eight post-Christmas games, but three of those six losses have come in overtime or a shootout, so the Coyotes have at least earned points in five of those eight games—and at least they can boast of having beaten the Islanders last weekend.
Phoenix is also playing the second game of a three-games-in-four-nights road trip, but the Coyotes also boast a 12-9-and-3 road record (which is better than Detroit’s 11-and-13 mark), they acquired Gilbert Brule via re-entry waivers to bolster their forward lines, they’re getting healthier as Boyd Gordon and Adrian Aucoin are returning from injuries, and Wing-killer Radim Vrbata’s already scored 20 goals.
Ray Whitney and Vrbata spoke to the Arizona Republic’s Sarah McLellan about the high likelihood that they will join Howard and any of the Wings’ other possible All-Stars attendees as the pair have loomed large in the scoring department this season:
Whitney will make a plea for the NHL to select teammate Radim Vrbata, who reached the 20-goal plateau Tuesday night with his score in the Coyotes’ 2-1 shootout loss to the New York Rangers. The previous time the Coyotes had a 20-goal scorer before the All-Star break was Jan. 24, 2008, when Vrbata reached 20 with a hat trick.
“It’s a tough thing to score goals in this league nowadays, and he’s got 20 already and is looking for a career high,” Whitney said. “Not only that, but you look at his percentage in shootouts, his production in that aspect of the game. I’d say if he’s ever had a year to warrant it, this is it.”
Humility aside, Whitney and Vrbata both could be named All-Stars when the league announces the complete roster Thursday. Six players have been voted in by the fans to compete in Ottawa on Jan. 29, but the NHL picks the remaining players. The league usually has a representative from each team, either an All-Star for the main event or a newcomer for the skills competition. Whitney and Vrbata appear to be the Coyotes’ best bets. Vrbata is tied for seventh in the league with 20 goals. That’s two more than premier players such as Claude Giroux (Philadelphia Flyers), Daniel Sedin (Vancouver Canucks) and Corey Perry (Anaheim Ducks).
And as Whitney mentioned, Vrbata has been almost a lock in the shootout. He’s made three of five attempts this season, including one against the Rangers on Tuesday, with his signature forehand-to-bachkand shot that sneaks just under the crossbar. He’s on pace to surpass his career high for goals (27) that he set in 2007-08.
On many nights, it’s Whitney who’s setting up Vrbata, and Whitney’s role as a playmaker this season for the Coyotes has made him a realistic All-Star candidate. With 14 goals and 22 assists, Whitney’s had a hand in roughly a third of the Coyotes’ goals this season.
“He’s having a great season so far,” Vrbata said. “With his age (39), he’s still one of the better players in the league and for us, he’s one of the offensive guys in creating chances and goals for us and I enjoy playing with him.”
Coyotes coach Dave Tippett had this to say about his potential All-Stars...
“They’re both players with high skill, and we rely on them to contribute offensively,” Tippett said. “When they do, our team usually has success. Both are very worthy. Hopefully it’d be nice to see them both get in there.”
And McLellan notes that the Coyotes received lights-out fantastic goaltending from Mike Smith during their game against the Rangers…
Based on goalie Mike Smith’s performance in the past two games, Tippett has had little motivation to ease Smith back into the lineup. Smith missed six games with a groin injury but has looked solid between the pipes in his return. As long as that holds up, Tippett sees no reason to limit his playing time.
“With the injury, he did get a little bit of rest and he’s feeling really good in the net right now,” Tippett said. “We’ll monitor how much practice and rest he gets. But we’re gonna go game by game here and if he’s feeling good and can play, we’ll play him.”
And she updated the Coyotes’ injury situations:
Defenseman David Schlemko remains day-to-day with a lower-body injury he sustained in the second period of Saturday’s game.
- Center Martin Hanzal skated for the first time on Saturday since he suffered an upper-body injury on Dec.23 against the St. Louis Blues. Whether he’ll travel with the team on its upcoming three-game road trip has yet to be determined.
- Center Boyd Gordon, who has been on injured reserve with a lower-body injury, also has been skating. Tippett believes Gordon will be on the road trip.
PhoenixCoyotes.com’s Luke Lapinski also offered two points of interest while discussing the Coyotes’ players’ first-half performances...
Role players stepping up: The Coyotes lost some unheralded players in the offseason, so General Manager Don Maloney went about his usual business of finding impressive replacements for a good deal.
Head Coach Dave Tippett, meanwhile, has seamlessly worked them into the lineup – a fact that should shock absolutely no one. Whether it’s a guy like Kyle Chipchura delivering energy or Raffi Torres providing some grit, players that aren’t afraid to go into the tough areas of the ice and sacrifice the body make a huge difference in today’s NHL. And we can’t forget Boyd Gordon, who loses a faceoff about as often as a Kardashian joins MENSA.
More emerging young defenders: David Schlemko has quietly gone about his business, becoming a steady force on the back end and giving this team yet another solid option to work with along the blue line. In fact, with all the defensive talent the Coyotes have at the moment, it’s Schlemko who leads the way with a plus-7 rating while averaging nearly 18 and a half minutes of ice time per night. He will be missed as he nurses a lower-body injury.
Meanwhile, Oliver Ekman-Larsson is delivering the breakout campaign we all knew he was capable of – and he may even be a little ahead of schedule in doing so. The game just seems easy for him and it’s only going to get easier. The possibility of an Ekman-Larsson – David Rundblad defensive pairing someday is intriguing to say the least. Two of the most highly regarded, up-and-coming Swedish defenders in the world, who already know each other from when they were younger and who possess opposite handed shots from the point. They’re each about half the age of Nicklas Lidstrom. And if they each accomplish half of what he has in his career, this team is in great shape for a long time to come.
Thursday’s game: Coyotes at Red Wings
Red Wings update: The Red Wings aren’t the current top dog in the Central Division, trailing the upstart St. Louis Blues and steady Chicago Blackhawks, but that doesn’t diminish the threat they present on the ice. Goalie Jimmy Howard is having a Vezina-worthy campaign, defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom (plus-17) still isn’t playing his age, and Pavel Datsyuk (13 goals and 43 points) is still a magician with the puck. The Red Wings had a hiccup Tuesday night, losing 5-1 to the New York Islanders, but they went 5-2 before that. Last time around, the Red Wings tagged the Coyotes for five goals en route to a convincing win in early December.
NHL.com’s Corey Masisak provides a solid pivot point between the Coyotes’ and Red Wings’ perspectives via his game preview:
Coyotes [team scope]: The offense has gone missing in this current slump for Phoenix. The Coyotes have lost 11 of 16 games to slip to 11th place in the West. In seven of those 11 losses—including Tuesday’s 2-1 shootout defeat in New York—they’ve scored one goal or less.
Red Wings [team scope]: After an uncharacteristic slow start, Detroit is just fine at the season’s midway point—despite Tuesday’s 5-1 clunker on Long Island. The Red Wings are among the top six in the NHL in goals for, goals against and power-play proficiency. Sure, the penalty-killing could be better (23rd in the League at 80.8 percent), but Detroit is on pace for another 100-plus point season and remain one of the top contenders in the West.
One thing that is different about this edition? General manager Ken Holland has cap space to work with—lots of cap space. According to Capgeek.com, the Wings have more than $12 million in acquisition space right now and would have nearly $27 million at the trade deadline (that figure will be less if there are injuries, but it will still be huge). Expect Holland to enjoy shopping for another player or two to solidify Detroit’s status as a Cup contender.
The Wings are glad to be back at Joe Louis Arena—they’ve won their last 12 home games, two short of the franchise record set in 1965, and are 15-2-1 overall at the Joe.
Who’s Hot: Smith might be making a late push for a spot in the All-Star game. He’s allowed one goal in four of his past five starts and has stopped 135 of 142 shots (.951 save percentage) in that span. … Justin Abdelkader has three goals in the past six games for Detroit, including the lone tally against the Islanders. Henrik Zetterberg has nine points in eight games since the Christmas break, including six in the past four.
Injury Report: Phoenix has been without center Martin Hanzal for eight games because of an upper-body injury, but he is skating on his own. The Coyotes did get center Boyd Gordon (lower body) back against the Rangers. … Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk missed the loss to the Islanders with a lower-body injury and is listed as day-to-day. Patrick Eaves is out until later this month with a broken jaw.
Stat Pack: Want a good indication that Phoenix coach Dave Tippett trusts Gordon as his defensive ace? Gordon has started his shifts in the defensive zone 63.9 percent of the time, which is tops on the Coyotes and 15th among forwards who have played at least 30 games in the League this season. … Abdelkader and Detroit’s Darren Helm aren’t just the young guys up front for the Red Wings who provide energy—they are also helping the Wings get their sixth-ranked power play on the ice more. Helm is drawing 2.2 penalties per 60 minutes of ice time, which is fifth in the NHL among players with at least 30 games played, while Abdelkader’s 2.1 per 60 is tied for sixth. Detroit is only team with two guys in the top 15.
According to the NHL’s media website, Dave Jackson and Marcus Vinnerborg will referee tonight’s game, and Jay Sharrers and Brian Pancich will work the lines.
As the Free Press’s Helene St. James suggests, the Red Wings needed an unearned day off on Wednesday very, very badly as they played particularly poorly against the Islanders. Babcock explained his decision to give his players time to physically and mentally recharge after plain old looking tired Tuesday night:
“Well, I got no idea [if they were worn out],” he said, “but that’s what we looked like, so that’s what I’m going with. We’ll give them a day off and get freshened up and that puts the onus back on them. We’ve got to play harder.”
The Wings may get Pavel Datsyuk back after he missed Tuesday with a lower-body injury, and they will have available Jan Mursak, who has been out all season with a broken ankle.
FYI: according to the Griffins’ website, Mursak headed to Detroit after Wednesday night’s Griffins game.
The Wings—who have won 12 in a row at home—have played 11 of their last 14 games on the road and have gone through four sets of back-to-backs during that time. During the past four games a disturbing trend has emerged, as they’ve allowed 15 goals, a stain on a season in which they have otherwise cut down on their goals-against average from last year. The Stars, Maple Leafs, Blackhawks and Islanders all padded their score with goals off turnovers and odd-man rushes.
“When you’re trying to do too much and turning the puck over, you’re bound to give up odd-man rushes, and those lead to goals,” defenseman Brad Stuart said. “We’ve got to tighten those areas of our game up. It starts with everybody committed to the small details of puck management and those types of things.”
Tuesday’s performance was especially damaging for backup goaltender Ty Conklin, who’d been given a second straight start to show he can spell Jimmy Howard before the Feb. 27 trade deadline. Team defense was terrible, but asked about Conklin after the game, Babcock said, “he was in there with us.”
Several players seemed almost stunned at how badly things went against the Islanders. Niklas Kronwall said, “We have to look at ourselves in the mirror and just get back on track here, because right now (we’re) not playing the way we want to play the game.”
“We’re not doing things right, we’re not sticking to our plan,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “We know what to do, but we don’t do it. We have to be better individually.”
The Wings continued on the defensive tack while speaking to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan...
Looking a bit shellshocked after the loss, the Wings appeared intent on correcting this problem quickly. “All of us in here, we have to do a way better job,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “Get back to basics. We’re not playing the way we want to be playing.”
The loss to the Islanders was alarming. No one felt the work ethic the Wings displayed was acceptable.
“They outbattled us, they outworked us, outhustled us,” defenseman Brad Stuart said. “We were kind of careless with the puck.”
Mental or physical mistakes, the Wings have been making more of them. The Wings completed a stretch a 14 of 19 games on the road Tuesday and the strain of being on the road so much may have finally caught up.
“That’s nothing we’re going to blame this on,” Henrik Zetterberg said. “We’ve been in this league long enough that we should be better.”
And Stuart in particular was equally blunt when discussing the Wings’ loss with the Macomb Daily’s Chuck Pleiness...
“We’ve got to get back to the details of the game, when you’re trying to do too much you turn the puck over, you’re bound to give up odd-man rushes and those lead to goals,” Stuart said. “We just got to tighten those areas of our game up. It starts with being committed to the smaller details of puck management.”
The Wings have won 12 straight at home.
“It’s not just going to happen, we have to commit to it but certainly we feel comfortable at home. There should be no excuses going back but we all have to individually prepare to do those things,” Stuart said.
And Nicklas Lidstrom hit the nail on the head while speaking to Pleiness, suggesting that his team simply hasn’t focused on the detail work of out-skating their opponents to win one-on-one puck battles by getting on the inside (see: the Wings’ tendency to stab at pucks while reaching around their opponents when they struggle), playing strong positional defense by standing up at their blueline instead of backing in and playing positional defense, using sticks and bodies to block passes and shots while keeping their opponents to the outside (see: the Wings chasing puck carriers, leaving scorers in the slot wide open, or the many 2-on-1’s and breakaways given up over the course of the Wings’ road trip due to “cheating” forwards and tons of turnovers in those danger zones within ten feet of the offensive and defensive bluelines with four or five players bunched up even with or ahead of the puck):
“That’s where we have to play a lot better with the puck, we haven’t done that, paid attention to details, that’s what we’re lacking,” Niklas Lidstrom said. “It’s a concern where you’re letting in four goals and you have to score five or six to win games, it’s hard in this league.”
Despite the sudden jump in goals against, the Wings’ still rank sixth in the league in goals-against average (2.36).
“We have to find a way to tighten up our defensive part of the game,” Niklas Kronwall said. “We’ve been doing way too mistakes here as of late and (Tuesday) it was even worse.
“All of us in here have to do a way better job, we have to get back to the basics, look ourselves in the mirror and just back on track here,” Kronwall added. “Right now we’re not really playing the way we want to be playing the game.”
Part II: Red Wings notebooks: The Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan also pointed out that Henrik Zetterberg’s in something of a goal-scoring slump:
It’s been 11 games since Zetterberg last scored, Dec. 17 against Los Angeles. During that span, Zetterberg has assisted on 10 goals. With 32 points (eight goals, 24 assists) in 42 games, Zetterberg’s numbers are down. But Babcock likes what he’s seen from an all-around sense.
“I didn’t think he started great by any means and probably was frustrated by it,” Babcock said. “But he’s been real determined.”
Said Zetterberg: “You try not to think about what you’ve done in the past and just focus on the game in front of you.”
• As noted on Wednesday evening, Red Wings forward Tomas Holmstrom spent time with people of similar maturity levels while attending an assembly at Maples Elementary School in Dearborn. The Wings’ website and Detroit Free Press posted photo galleries from the event, and he talked to DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose about the assembly:
“I thought that with 600 kids, it was going to be crazy,” Holmstrom said. “But in kindergarten they are so tiny, it didn’t really feel like it was 600, but when they started screaming it felt like a thousand. It was fun.”
Holmstrom was at Maples Elementary School in Dearborn as part of the Red Wings’ School Assembly Program, which is sponsored by the Detroit Red Wings Foundation and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. The program, which started last year, is intended to introduce young school-aged children to hockey and encourage them to lead active and healthy lives through daily exercise and good eating habits.
Wednesday’s visit to western Wayne County was one of a 100 scheduled appearances to elementary schools in metro Detroit this season. Besides talking about healthy living, the Red Wings also left some special items behind for the school, including two complete sets of floor hockey equipment, as well as Red Wings-themed school folders for each student, and BCBS magnets that list five fun after-school activities.
“I know myself growing up, we were always outside playing street hockey, especially when it wasn’t cold enough,” said Holmstrom, who’s from northern Sweden. “If we didn’t have nets or snow piles or rocks as nets, we had to improvise. Now they have all of the tools here, and it’s always good to plant some seeds in them.”
During the assembly, Holmstrom spent several minutes talking about the importance of eating good foods, limiting junk food and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
“You’ve got to plant that seed too and talk about it, and if you don’t talk about it they’re not going to be aware of it,” Holmstrom said. “So for sure it’s important to talk about what to eat and stuff like that. I’ve got kids myself and for sure they want to go the easy route and have chips and cookies when they come home, but you’re not going to last on that.”
Part III: In the AHL and ECHL: The Grand Rapids Griffins had a frustrating outing on Wednesday night, giving up a game-tying goal to the Houston Aeros with 1:58 left in the 3rd period and ultimately losing a 3-2 shootout decision. The Griffins’ website provides the details thereof...
The Griffins dominated play early, racking up eight shots on Darcy Kuemper before Houston finally fired its first on Joey MacDonald 9:42 into the contest. Chris Conner, playing his first game with Grand Rapids since Nov. 29, used a nifty move to put the Griffins on the board soon after, as he took a Gustav Nyquist pass at the Aeros’ line, sped wide around a defender down the left side and darted towards the crease before slipping a backhand between Kuemper’s pads at the 12:06 mark.
Grand Rapids eventually increased its shot margin to 13-1 before the Aeros logged their second attempt during a power play with just 2:33 remaining in the period, which ended with the Griffins showing a 14-4 advantage. That cushion grew to 21-6 midway through the second and 29-10 through 40 minutes, yet the Aeros – co-owners of the AHL’s fewest regulation losses (8) and second in the league with a plus-14 scoring margin in the third period – found themselves down by only that lone goal entering the final frame.
After managing to hang around in a game it had no business being in, Houston (20-8-2-7) came alive in the third and netted the equalizer just 3:02 in, as Jon DiSalvatore solved MacDonald from the right circle.
The Griffins were able to take a breath at the 16:12 mark when [Landon] Ferraro slammed home Conner’s centering pass from the left circle, but late mistakes opened the door again for the Aeros. Garnet Exelby was sent to the penalty box for boarding at 16:50, and during the ensuing Houston power play, a turnover by the Griffins inside their zone resulted in a scramble around MacDonald’s net and eventually the goal by [Jed] Ortmeyer, who forced overtime by scoring from the left side with 1:58 remaining.
Following a third period in which they were out-shot 15-6, the Griffins had several scoring opportunities and the only shot of overtime until MacDonald made a sliding stop on Marco Scandella at the right post just before the buzzer, pushing the game to a shootout.
[Gustav] Nyquist scored on the Griffins’ first shootout attempt for a 1-0 lead, but Houston’s Kris Foucault and DiSalvatore succeeded in rounds three and five to complete the visitors’ comeback.
The Griffins’ website also posted a Flickr photo gallery from the game and seven minutes’ worth of post-game interviews on their YouTube channel…
And the Grand Rapids Press posted a 13-image gallery and a recap from Michael Zuidema, who noted that the Griffins couldn’t overpower the Aeros offensively despite the presences of Gustav Nyquist, Joakim Andersson, Chris Conner, Fabian Brunnstrom (who’s battled injuries) and Mursak in the lineup:
The loss snapped the Griffins’ three-game winning streak, but it did extend their point streak to seven games (3-0-3-1). Grand Rapids coach Curt Fraser said the team should have been able to come away with a victory.
“We got a point, and that’s great, but it’s very disappointing in how the game turned out,” Fraser said. “We just got Conner and Nyquist back (from Detroit), and they did a nice job, but it never fails: Two guys come down, everybody else in the locker room relaxes a little and takes their foot off the gas for a minute because they think they’re going to look after everything. It’s not good enough.”
Conner and Landon Ferraro scored for the Griffins, while Nyquist had two assists. Ferraro appeared to score the game-winning goal with 3:48 remaining in the third period after taking a nice cross-ice pass from Conner, who appeared in his first game for the Griffins since Nov. 29.
But Grand Rapids captain Garnet Exelby took a boarding penalty 38 seconds later, and the Aeros’ Jed Ortmeyer forced overtime with a power-play goal with 1:58 left in the third. The Griffins have earned points in 14 of their past 16 games (8-2-3-3), but they know they need more if they’re going to make an impact in the North Division standings. They currently are tied for third with Hamilton.
“It’s been a long time since we haven’t gotten a point,” Ferraro said. “It’s a good sign, but at the same time we’re taking a lot of games to overtime and if we get the two points, yeah, fine, but we’re giving up points as well.”
With 11 minutes remaining in the third, Grand Rapids’ Louis-Marc Aubry had the first fight of his professional career, with Houston’s Drew Bagnall, who appeared to get the easy win. ... After the Minnesota Wild recalled goaltender Matt Hackett earlier Wednesday, Houston was forced to dress Lansing Community College’s Jared Everhardt to serve as the backup goalie. He didn’t play. ... Grand Rapids goalie Jordan Pearce missed his fourth consecutive game with a sprained ankle.
Also of Red Wings-related note: If you missed it because I posted it in the middle of the night, Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Arnold reports that the NHL plans on hosting any potential Michigan-based Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor;
• ESPN’s Scott Burnside offers an obvious trend/story to “watch for” over the second half of the NHL season:
Who will be crowned czars of the Central? The Central Division is the toughest place to play hockey in the NHL right now. Apart from the embarrassing Columbus Blue Jackets, the four remaining teams should be playoff bound and the battle between Detroit, St. Louis and Chicago for the top spot should make for some compelling moments in the second half of the season. Getting home ice is always nice and winning the Central is a pretty big deal because it’s likely going to mean the first or second seed in the West and, more importantly, if you don’t win the Central there’s a pretty good chance the first round of the playoffs will feature a matchup of the second- and third-place teams. Right now that would mean Detroit and Chicago facing off in the first round. Not a bad way to start the postseason if you’re a fan but you can bet all three of Chicago, Detroit and the current Central Division leaders, St. Louis, would like to avoid that kind of road through the playoffs. The Blackhawks and Red Wings fancy themselves Stanley Cup contenders and have the pedigree to support that theory. The Blues, meanwhile, are trying to figure out if they can play with the big boys. Their turnaround under Ken Hitchcock has been exemplary and they are the top defensive team in the conference. The Hawks have defensive issues and a tendency to go completely sideways at times, while the Red Wings have struggled on the road although they’ve been dominant at Joe Louis Arena. Should be fun, right to the bitter end.
Dennis (Lansing,MI) Do you think the Wings will use any of their cap space at the Trade deadline for a potential rental player?
Pierre LeBrun yes _ like LA, they like Hemsky…. I also think if Ryan Suter becomes available (I said IF) then Detroit will inquire along with a dozen other teams!
Charles - Deeetroit [via mobile]: What are the odds Detroit tricks a team in taking the young, big, very clumsy Erikson in return for a better blue line prospect? Erikson, rather than taking the improvement path of Kronwall or being extremely undervalued like Brad Stuart (SIGN SIGN SIGN keeping Brad Stuart allows Det to look for an offensive threat on the blueline), has looked more like an on-going project with POSSIBLE upside alla Lilja or Kyle Quincy. With Suter playing in the same division, lets put defense aside. With Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Bertuzzi, and Holmstrom all playing a bit long in the tooth, what are now the chances Detroit decides to bring a big mean sniper like Jerome Iginla reminiscent of the Brett Hull or Shanahan signing (3 Stanley Cups followed), or try for a streakier player more like Zach Parise, Hemsky, Grabovski, etc.
Pierre LeBrun: Hemsky is name I’ve heard a lot connected to Detroit… doesn’t mean it’s going to happen, but I know Wings have interest in him
Lilja back, for Ericsson, not Erikson? Um, no (and I don’t think the Wings can trade Ericsson, period, due to his salary). He’s Flyers fans’ resident Ericsson from what I’ve heard, and I don’t believe that Quincey’s on the trade block…And talk of adding Iginla or Parise is just unrealistic—their teams will try to retain them, and if they do become available, their asking prices are going to be extraordinarily high—as is the suggestion that the Wings could grab Mikhail Grabovski from a Toronto Maple Leafs team that wants to add, not subtract. I think we’re more likely to be talking about mid-range free agents-to-be like Hemsky (as much as I hate that suggestion) or perhaps an under-performing player who’s done better in the past like Francois Beauchemin.
“We lost Brian Rafalski, Mike Modano, Chris Osgood, Kris Draper, a lot of veteran leadership, but with it there was opportunity on the ice and off the ice,” Holland said.
“If we’re going to grow as an organization, we needed the 20-somethings to take another step. Our 20-somethings, Jimmy Howard, Ian White, (Jiri) Hudler, (Valtteri) Filppula, (Jakub) Kindl, (Jonathan) Ericsson, (Justin) Abdelkader, (Darren) Helm, (Drew) Miller, they’ve all taken a bit of a step forward. Both statistically, but also they’ve become more important to the success of our team. So as I look back on the first half, we’re in the hunt with the top teams, we’ve had a lot of our 20-somethings step up and the other thing is we’ve developed better depth. All in all after 41 games, if you’d told me this is where we’d be coming out of training camp, we’d be pretty happy.”
As well as his possible trade deadline plans:
“This year we’re well under the cap,” said Holland, who can take on more salary than virtually all of his playoff rivals. “We got lots of options as we head toward the trade deadline and hopefully we continue to win and stay up there and we can look if there’s an opportunity to make a move to make us a little deeper.”
• We’ve heard quite a bit about the future of fighting in the game since Brian Burke went off on the NHL for forcing him to demote Colton Orr (that’s more or less what he suggested while holding a press conference about waiving a bit player), and the Wings are mentioned repeatedly in an article by USA Today’s Kevin Allen on the subject of fighting as a declining art:
“The times when something might erupt seem few and far between,” Phoenix Coyotes general manager Don Maloney said.
Phoenix’s popular heavyweight, Paul Bissonnette, had eight fights at last season’s halfway point and one by Monday’s midpoint. He did open the second half Tuesday night with a fight against the New York Rangers’ Mike Rupp.
“He has still played hard,” Maloney said. “But it’s the lack of takers. Paul is not going out there and grab (Detroit Red Wings star) Pavel Datsyuk.”
The Detroit Red Wings don’t have a designated fighter guy on their roster, and have been comfortable with that decision. “They think, OK, if you put Colton Orr on the ice, we are coming out with Datsyuk and (Henrik) Zetterberg,” [NHL analyst Craig] Button said.
• In the injury department, the Sault Star’s Peter Ruicci provides another update regarding the status of Wings prospect and Soo Greyhounds defenseman Ryan Sproul, who’s recovering from a broken jaw:
[S]econd-year rearguard Ryan Sproul, 18, is now able to work out and is eating small portions of soft foods after suffering a fractured jaw Dec. 28 in a game against Sarnia at Essar Centre. But “he’ll be out at least another 4-6 weeks from now,” [Greyhounds athletic therapist Paul] Rotenberg said of Sproul, a second-round pick of the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings a year ago.
Sproul has returned to doing full workouts with his teammates. The Mississauga native said he’s working his core muscles and upper and lower body, while riding the stationary bike and doing cardio work.
“I’m also skating by myself about 15-20 minutes a day,” said Sproul, who is able to speak clearly again.
For the first while, after a plate was surgically implanted into his jaw, which was held closed by elastics, the Hounds player struggled to speak clearly.
“It’s been tough, I want to play,” said Sproul, who originally dropped 13 pounds from his six-foot-three, 190-pound frame.
Since then, however, he’s regained six pounds.
“I feel really good,” he added. “I’m recovering well and looking forward to coming back and playing with the guys again.”
• If you’re interested, I always post the week’s crop of power rankings in an as-they-come-in basis, but the Flint Journal’s Brendan Savage posted a roundup of where the Wings stand in the eyes of list-makers…
• I don’t know how they’d be able to do so, but this is still pretty cool: the Free Press’s George Sipple reports that Michigan State University has spoken to someone about playing a hockey game on an aircraft carrier;
• And finally, this one’s from the boss, and it’s a video about Jimmy Howard’s mask:
Update: The Port Huron Times-Herald’s Julianne Mattera penned an article regarding the 2012 Port Huron International Silver Stick Finals, also noted the following:
Former Red Wing Chris Chelios will not be attending Chilly Fest 2012 because of another commitment, according to a news release from LeeAnn Peart, director of Downtown Port Huron. Kirk Maltby, another former Red Wing, will be at the event to sign autographs and take photos with fans from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Jan. 28 at McMorran [Arena]. Tickets are $15. People who already have purchased tickets to meet Chelios will receive a photo and original autograph of Chelios, a chance to win an autographed jersey from Chelios and will meet Maltby. For any questions or to buy tickets to meet Maltby, call (810) 984-9790.
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.